Bill tightens oversight of group funds

Starting next spring, student organizations will have to pitch each event and expense to the Student Association to get funding.

Instead of asking for lump sums of money during the allocations process, when the SA divvies up a nearly $1 million pool this year, groups will have to break down their event and administrative costs, following the passage of a reform bill Monday.

The changes stem from a two-month audit of SA finances, launched after organizations claimed the allocations process was unfair to certain groups last fall. This spring is also the first time groups will submit budgets before the school year begins, and it marks a third year of overhaul to the allocation process.

Second-in-command of the finance committee Ryan Counihan said would help the SA to ensure fairer funding.

“We are creating a more transparent allocations process so people know from day one where their money is going to be spent for the entire year,” Counihan said.

The SA has traditionally allocated funds to student organizations in September, but leaders said an earlier process would help groups kick off faster at the start of the academic year.

The committee announced the itemized budget policy, which will become stricter over next two years, just 11 days before groups must submit their budgets for the 2013-2014 school year. Next year, the finance committee will require even more specific budget breakdowns detailing expenses for each specific event.

Counihan said the SA will phase in the new policy to avoid burdening organization leaders, who have less than a month to put their budgets together.

Senators outside the finance committee will vet any funding appeals, after groups like the Club Sports Council complained about that process last semester.

The senate will also begin voting on co-sponsorships, budget requests throughout the year that total more than $5,000. This year, the finance committee approved 10 co-sponsorships for more than $5,000. Finance committee chair Alex Mizenko said the extra layer of approval would offer “more oversight.”

Organization of Latino American Students president Alex Veliz said it will be difficult for groups to comply with the new budget requirements and plan their finances so far ahead of the academic year.

“It’s good to plan ahead, but that’s planning really far in advance,” Veliz said.

He added that he thinks some groups will inflate their budgets to give themselves a financial cushion since “there’s always costs that you don’t know until it gets closer.”

The senate has sought to hand groups more accurate funding checks through steps like moving up the allocations process to the spring, requiring organizations to plan their budgets better.

Both the SA and administrators have stressed financial accountability as the number of student organizations continues to rise. The Center for Student Engagement mandated in the fall that student organizations attend financial management meetings before completing the student organization registration process.

As the SA budget doubles to $1.75 million following a student activity fee hike over the next nine years, Counihan and Mizenko said the increased transparency is increasingly crucial. The fee hike, passed in a November referendum, will ultimately tack on $45 extra to each student’s annual tuition bill

“At the end of the day a million dollars, and eventually, $1.75 million is a lot of money, and I don’t think it ever hurts to have more people involved with the distribution of the funds,” Mizenko said.

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